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I just don't understand German flutes!

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  • Terry McGee
    Greetings all. Yet another German 8 key flute brought to me this evening by an owner too embarrased to play it in public. Classic German features, part ivory
    Message 1 of 11 , Oct 5, 1999
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      Greetings all.

      Yet another German 8 key flute brought to me this evening by an owner too
      embarrased to play it in public. Classic German features, part ivory head,
      post mounted, nickel silver fittings, no name, etc. Classic tuning dilemma:

      Low High Diff

      D -60 0 60
      E -25 25 50
      F# -50 0 50 (with F key open)
      G -30 10 40
      A 0 0 0
      B -10 -25 -15
      C# 0 -25 -25 (with c key open)

      The above with an extension of about 13mm.

      Needless to say, tunes played on it sound quite ghastly.

      The very flat lower notes suggest the flute would be happier at a lower
      pitch, but the slide extension becomes unworkable a long way before a
      significant improvement is noted.

      Note the vast difference between first and second octave notes, suggesting
      the lower bore is too tapered and is over compensating. No sign of
      shrinkage though. No cracks in head, no loose rings.

      Now it's simplistic to write off the entire German flutemaking history as
      inept, yet every flute I see follows this general trend. What's going on?

      How were flutes from Tromlitz's time Ardal?

      Terry
      ________________________________________________________________________

      Terry McGee

      61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
      Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263
      mailto: t.mcgee@...
      http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee

      - flutes & piccolos for Irish music, Irish pipes
      - harpsichord family and flutes for early music
      - woodwind and brass repairs & rebuilding
      - broadcasting and recording, ArtSound Studios
      - Australian Irish music group, Ballyhooley
      - maintenance, National Carillon Canberra

      with the assistance of the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

      Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study:
      http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee/Rudall.html
      ________________________________________________________________________
    • Casey Burns - Wind Instrument Maker
      Hi Terry, I ve run into hundreds of these. Many were mass produced and sold for a few dollars each around the end of the 19th century in such places as Sear s
      Message 2 of 11 , Oct 5, 1999
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        Hi Terry,
        I've run into hundreds of these. Many were mass produced and sold for a
        few dollars each around the end of the 19th century in such places as
        Sear's Catalogue, etc.

        I've redone some of these, reboring the instrument and resizing the
        fingerholes and redoing the voicing. Rod Cameron has gone further, in
        some cases filling in the bores and rereaming, in similar fashion to his
        retreads.

        The nice thing about this is that you can sometimes get a 6 or 8 keyed
        flute into someone's hand at a minimal cost.

        Casey
        --
        Casey Burns - Wind Instrument Maker and Occasional Paleontologist
        9962 Shorty Campbell Road Kingston WA 98346 USA
        (360) 297-4020
        cburns@...
        http://kendaco.telebyte.com
        Instrument Catalog: http://kendaco.telebyte.com/cburns/flutecat.html
        Care Instructions: http://kendaco.telebyte.com/cburns/care.html
      • jan de winne
        Hello Terry What s the cork position? isn t it usefull to put the cork furher back so that the D s come a little bit more in line? Jan De Winne ... From:
        Message 3 of 11 , Oct 5, 1999
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          Hello Terry
          What's the cork position? isn' t it usefull to put the cork furher back
          so that the D's come a little bit more in line?
          Jan De Winne
          -----Original Message-----
          From: Terry McGee <t.mcgee@...>
          To: earlyflute@onelist.com <earlyflute@onelist.com>
          Date: mercredi 6 octobre 1999 0:29
          Subject: [earlyflute] I just don't understand German flutes!


          >From: Terry McGee <t.mcgee@...>
          >
          >Greetings all.
          >
          >Yet another German 8 key flute brought to me this evening by an owner too
          >embarrased to play it in public. Classic German features, part ivory head,
          >post mounted, nickel silver fittings, no name, etc. Classic tuning
          dilemma:
          >
          > Low High Diff
          >
          >D -60 0 60
          >E -25 25 50
          >F# -50 0 50 (with F key open)
          >G -30 10 40
          >A 0 0 0
          >B -10 -25 -15
          >C# 0 -25 -25 (with c key open)
          >
          >The above with an extension of about 13mm.
          >
          >Needless to say, tunes played on it sound quite ghastly.
          >
          >The very flat lower notes suggest the flute would be happier at a lower
          >pitch, but the slide extension becomes unworkable a long way before a
          >significant improvement is noted.
          >
          >Note the vast difference between first and second octave notes, suggesting
          >the lower bore is too tapered and is over compensating. No sign of
          >shrinkage though. No cracks in head, no loose rings.
          >
          >Now it's simplistic to write off the entire German flutemaking history as
          >inept, yet every flute I see follows this general trend. What's going on?
          >
          >How were flutes from Tromlitz's time Ardal?
          >
          >Terry
          >________________________________________________________________________
          >
          > Terry McGee
          >
          > 61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
          > Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263
          > mailto: t.mcgee@...
          > http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee
          >
          > - flutes & piccolos for Irish music, Irish pipes
          > - harpsichord family and flutes for early music
          > - woodwind and brass repairs & rebuilding
          > - broadcasting and recording, ArtSound Studios
          > - Australian Irish music group, Ballyhooley
          > - maintenance, National Carillon Canberra
          >
          > with the assistance of the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.
          >
          > Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study:
          > http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee/Rudall.html
          >________________________________________________________________________
          >
          >>
        • Richard M. Wilson
          ... Hi Terry. I ll be interested in hearing what others have to say, but here are some quick thoughts. Why pick on German flutes? Mid-19th C English flutes
          Message 4 of 11 , Oct 5, 1999
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            > Yet another German 8 key flute brought to me this evening by an owner too
            > ............... Classic tuning dilemma:
            > Low High Diff
            > D -60 0 60 [deletions]
            > C# 0 -25 -25........
            > The above with an extension of about 13mm.
            > The very flat lower notes suggest the flute would be happier at a lower
            > pitch, but the slide extension becomes unworkable a long way before a

            Hi Terry.

            I'll be interested in hearing what others have to say, but here are some
            quick thoughts.

            Why pick on German flutes? Mid-19th C English flutes have the flattest
            low Ds, in my opinion. And I have French 5-key flutes with the same
            symptoms, though some are much better. And my experience is that such
            flutes play better in tune when played at a *higher* pitch.

            I have always had the idea, with no serious evidence, that the low D was
            kept so horribly flat to "improve" the third octave. Those high notes,
            like f#''' and a''', are not as easy to adjust as the lower ones. I'm
            willing to suffer with strange tunings in the first octave but will not
            put up with a 19C flute where the third octave is not in tune! On some
            English and German flutes, I find the first two A's rather sharp, but
            if they were flatter, then the high e''' would be flat, another thing
            up with which I will not put.

            I have seen one 19C reference (I cannot remember who) where it was
            claimed that low d' was purposely kept low so that it could be played
            loudly. So one might think keeping the whole first octave low would
            be desirable to those who like loud low notes. But the example Terry
            gives is excessive.

            --Rick Wilson
          • Ardal Powell
            On Tuesday, October 05, 1999 9:45 AM, Terry McGee ... 18th-century keyed flutes in general seem to have much more manageable intonation than the readings
            Message 5 of 11 , Oct 5, 1999
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              On Tuesday, October 05, 1999 9:45 AM, Terry McGee
              [SMTP:t.mcgee@...] wrote:
              > How were flutes from Tromlitz's time Ardal?

              18th-century keyed flutes in general seem to have much more manageable
              intonation than the readings you're getting from this flute. Especially
              Tromlitz flutes, which really are exceptionally well in tune, just the way
              he said.

              One fairly general oddity of flutes of this period is that there is hardly
              ever an Eb, only a D#, and even that is often too low in the first octave.
              That makes it very hard to play in flat keys--I wonder what sort of flute
              Carl Maria von Weber had in mind for his trio (flute, cello, piano) in I
              think G minor/major, where the 3rd movement has a theme in Eb major. That
              tune starts with a 5th from Bb to Eb that is excruciatingly small on most
              flutes of the period--the ones I know anyway.

              Another peculiarity is that low D is often--I think I can say
              always--somewhat flat. As Rick says of later flutes, this seems true of
              English, French, German, and Austrian instruments, but not always in the
              same degree. It's even true a little bit of Tromlitz flutes--you can't play
              a soft low D with a slack embouchure, but have to push a bit to get it in
              tune. I think this has to do less with getting the 3rd octave in tune than
              with producing the penetrating sound in the low register that people wrote
              about at the time.

              I say that because Grenser flutes, the ones most often copied and heard in
              classical orchestra performances, have another quirk--a flat G'''--that can
              easily be fixed by altering the footjoint in an operation that also makes
              the D octaves narrower.

              Ardal
              ________________________________________________
              Ardal Powell
              Folkers & Powell, Makers of Historical Flutes
              ardal@... * http://www.baroqueflute.com
              Full Circle Flute Co Ltd * http://www.headjoints.com
            • Terry McGee
              ... So it s your conclusion they were never really made to be right? Bit like some of our Pakistani flutes of today. Seems unbelievable, but I can t find
              Message 6 of 11 , Oct 6, 1999
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                At 16:49 5/10/99 -0700, you wrote:
                >From: Casey Burns - Wind Instrument Maker <cburns@...>
                >
                >Hi Terry,
                >I've run into hundreds of these. Many were mass produced and sold for a
                >few dollars each around the end of the 19th century in such places as
                >Sear's Catalogue, etc.

                So it's your conclusion they were never really made to be right? Bit like
                some of our Pakistani flutes of today. Seems unbelievable, but I can't
                find another explanation. Unsafe at any pitch!

                >I've redone some of these, reboring the instrument and resizing the
                >fingerholes and redoing the voicing. Rod Cameron has gone further, in
                >some cases filling in the bores and rereaming, in similar fashion to his
                >retreads.

                Yes ditto. Fortunately the finger hole spacing is pretty average, and the
                bore smaller than most, so you can just about turn it into any flute you
                want! I just feel a little bit guilty doing it, always concerned that I'm
                missing the bigger picture.

                >The nice thing about this is that you can sometimes get a 6 or 8 keyed
                >flute into someone's hand at a minimal cost.

                True. It's just the mystery that's killing me!

                Terry

                ________________________________________________________________________

                Terry McGee

                61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263
                mailto: t.mcgee@...
                http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee

                - flutes & piccolos for Irish music, Irish pipes
                - harpsichord family and flutes for early music
                - woodwind and brass repairs & rebuilding
                - broadcasting and recording, ArtSound Studios
                - Australian Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                - maintenance, National Carillon Canberra

                with the assistance of the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

                Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study:
                http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee/Rudall.html
                ________________________________________________________________________
              • Terry McGee
                ... The usual one diameter back from the centre of the embouchure hole. Next time I see one, I ll give moving the cork a try. I d be suprised if it makes the
                Message 7 of 11 , Oct 6, 1999
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                  At 01:53 6/10/99 +0200, you wrote:
                  >From: "jan de winne" <de.winne.j@...>
                  >
                  >Hello Terry
                  >What's the cork position? isn' t it usefull to put the cork furher back
                  >so that the D's come a little bit more in line?

                  The usual one diameter back from the centre of the embouchure hole. Next
                  time I see one, I'll give moving the cork a try. I'd be suprised if it
                  makes the necessary difference though!

                  Terry

                  ________________________________________________________________________

                  Terry McGee

                  61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                  Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263
                  mailto: t.mcgee@...
                  http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee

                  - flutes & piccolos for Irish music, Irish pipes
                  - harpsichord family and flutes for early music
                  - woodwind and brass repairs & rebuilding
                  - broadcasting and recording, ArtSound Studios
                  - Australian Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                  - maintenance, National Carillon Canberra

                  with the assistance of the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

                  Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study:
                  http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee/Rudall.html
                  ________________________________________________________________________
                • Terry McGee
                  ... I ve not found an English flute 60cents flat at the D, and generally the inter-octave gap is about right. And if you pull them out to about A430 or 435,
                  Message 8 of 11 , Oct 6, 1999
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                    At 17:12 5/10/99 -0700, you wrote:
                    >From: "Richard M. Wilson" <rmw@...>
                    >
                    >> Yet another German 8 key flute brought to me this evening by an owner too
                    >> ............... Classic tuning dilemma:
                    >> Low High Diff
                    >> D -60 0 60 [deletions]
                    >> C# 0 -25 -25........
                    >> The above with an extension of about 13mm.
                    >> The very flat lower notes suggest the flute would be happier at a lower
                    >> pitch, but the slide extension becomes unworkable a long way before a
                    >
                    >Why pick on German flutes? Mid-19th C English flutes have the flattest
                    >low Ds, in my opinion.

                    I've not found an English flute 60cents flat at the D, and generally the
                    inter-octave gap is about right. And if you pull them out to about A430 or
                    435, you usually find they start to make better sense.

                    >And I have French 5-key flutes with the same
                    >symptoms, though some are much better.

                    You don't see many French flutes in this neck of the woods, but what I've
                    seen have been good.

                    >And my experience is that such
                    >flutes play better in tune when played at a *higher* pitch.

                    Wouldn't work with this one. Sharpening it will sharpen the top end faster
                    than it will sharpen the bottom end. That will increase the errors.

                    >I have seen one 19C reference (I cannot remember who) where it was
                    >claimed that low d' was purposely kept low so that it could be played
                    >loudly. So one might think keeping the whole first octave low would
                    >be desirable to those who like loud low notes. But the example Terry
                    >gives is excessive.

                    Sure is. I could probably lip up 20 cents, but not 60!

                    Terry

                    ________________________________________________________________________

                    Terry McGee

                    61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                    Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263
                    mailto: t.mcgee@...
                    http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee

                    - flutes & piccolos for Irish music, Irish pipes
                    - harpsichord family and flutes for early music
                    - woodwind and brass repairs & rebuilding
                    - broadcasting and recording, ArtSound Studios
                    - Australian Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                    - maintenance, National Carillon Canberra

                    with the assistance of the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

                    Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study:
                    http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee/Rudall.html
                    ________________________________________________________________________
                  • ccattera@xxxxxxx.xx.xx
                    ... What on earth do you use to fill in the bore that doesn t become dislodged later? Is the filler water permeable? Clive Catterall
                    Message 9 of 11 , Oct 8, 1999
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                      Casey Burns and Terry McGee wrote:

                      >>I've redone some of these, reboring the instrument and resizing the

                      >>fingerholes and redoing the voicing. Rod Cameron has gone further, in

                      >>some cases filling in the bores and rereaming, in similar fashion to his

                      >>retreads.

                      >Yes ditto. Fortunately the finger hole spacing is pretty average, and the
                      >bore smaller than most, so you can just about turn it into any flute you
                      >want! I just feel a little bit guilty doing it, always concerned that I'm
                      >missing the bigger picture.





                      What on earth do you use to fill in the bore that doesn't become dislodged
                      later? Is the filler water permeable?

                      Clive Catterall
                    • Terry McGee
                      ... Anytime I ve had to take such drastic measures I ve bored out the problem area and glued in a wooden sleeve, then reamed it to the new dimension. ... In
                      Message 10 of 11 , Oct 8, 1999
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                        At 08:38 8/10/99 +0100, you wrote:
                        >From: ccattera@...

                        >What on earth do you use to fill in the bore that doesn't become dislodged
                        > later?

                        Anytime I've had to take such drastic measures I've bored out the problem
                        area and glued in a wooden sleeve, then reamed it to the new dimension.

                        >Is the filler water permeable?

                        In this case you certainly would need to use a waterproof glue!

                        Terry

                        ________________________________________________________________________

                        Terry McGee

                        61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                        Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263
                        mailto: t.mcgee@...
                        http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee

                        - flutes & piccolos for Irish music, Irish pipes
                        - harpsichord family and flutes for early music
                        - woodwind and brass repairs & rebuilding
                        - broadcasting and recording, ArtSound Studios
                        - Australian Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                        - maintenance, National Carillon Canberra

                        with the assistance of the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

                        Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study:
                        http://www2.dynamite.com.au/t.mcgee/Rudall.html
                        ________________________________________________________________________
                      • Rod Cameron
                        Dear Clive, Greetings from my workshop in Scotland! At the outset, let me say that one should think very carefully before doing any bore changes to an old
                        Message 11 of 11 , Oct 29, 1999
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                          Dear Clive,

                          Greetings from my workshop in Scotland!

                          At the outset, let me say that one should think very carefully before doing any
                          bore changes to an old flute. As Ardal has stated at Boxwood and probably in
                          these pages, are we missing something in our understanding of old tunings,
                          voicings, etc., that further study would reveal? So for goodness sake never
                          change an old instrument that can still enlighten us by asking the question,
                          "Why is this so?"

                          Having said that, there are many many eight keyed flutes out there that were
                          offered by Sears and Roebuck, and other companies that appear never to have
                          been serious contenders to fine playing.
                          Their mechanical condition is generally good with all eight keys working well.
                          With the owner's permission, and if the tone hole positions and pitch are
                          compatable, I can sometimes seek to make a silk purse from a sows ear by
                          re-reaming to a bore that is modelled after some very good acoustics of a
                          similar period. This is almost always done for a player of traditional music
                          who is struggling with a very poor flute. In some cases it is only a case of
                          re-reaming. In other cases, where the bore is already too large in some
                          sections, the flute is bored out to a very large cylindrical bore and a fresh
                          piece of similar wood then inserted giving a heavy wall thickness of new wood
                          that is then reamed after insertion. A very gentle taper on the OD of the
                          insert will insure a good fit with moisture permiability
                          as in its old condition. The result is a decent playing flute at a lower price
                          than a new one.

                          But think before you act...one only has to remember many important originals
                          who have their voicings and middlejoints altered in an effort to meet the
                          changing conditions of the day. An important original, once altered, is data
                          lost forever.


                          ccattera@... wrote:

                          > From: ccattera@...
                          >
                          > Casey Burns and Terry McGee wrote:
                          >
                          > >>I've redone some of these, reboring the instrument and resizing the
                          >
                          > >>fingerholes and redoing the voicing. Rod Cameron has gone further, in
                          >
                          > >>some cases filling in the bores and rereaming, in similar fashion to his
                          >
                          > >>retreads.
                          >
                          > >Yes ditto. Fortunately the finger hole spacing is pretty average, and the
                          > >bore smaller than most, so you can just about turn it into any flute you
                          > >want! I just feel a little bit guilty doing it, always concerned that I'm
                          > >missing the bigger picture.
                          >
                          > What on earth do you use to fill in the bore that doesn't become dislodged
                          > later? Is the filler water permeable?
                          >
                          > Clive Catterall
                          >
                          >
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